Final autopsy shows WWU student Dwight Clark was legally drunk, drowned


BELLINGHAM - Western Washington University student Dwight A. Clark drowned in Bellingham Bay and his death has been ruled accidental, the Whatcom County medical examiner reported Wednesday, Dec. 8.

The findings from Dr. Gary Goldfogel were publicly released Thursday and also stated that Clark had a blood alcohol level of at least 0.13 at the time of death. Traces of marijuana also were present in his body. The legal blood alcohol limit for driving is 0.08.

No other substances were detected, and there was no evidence of trauma to Clark's body that contributed to his death, according to the report.

Clark, an 18-year-old freshman from Auburn who moved to Bellingham about a week prior to his death, was last seen leaving a friend's house in the 1000 block of Indian Street at around 2 a.m. Sept. 26.

A blank text message was sent to a friend from Clark's cell phone at about 2:44 a.m. Nothing was heard from Clark after that.

After an extensive search by police, family and the Bellingham community, Clark's body was found Oct. 6 near the log pond at the old Georgia-Pacific site. Clark's identification, cell phone and car keys were found on him.

Four days later, an employee from Puget Sound Energy discovered video footage of a lone man walking south on a sidewalk in the 100 block of Cornwall Avenue at about 2:27 a.m. Sept. 26.

The footage was captured by a motion-activated video camera and briefly shows the man walking by, said Mark Young, a Bellingham police spokesman.

The footage was turned over to police, who showed it to Clark's family members. Family members said they believed the video was that of Clark.

Before Clark's body was found, a bloodhound brought in from Idaho to help search tracked his scent to a beach at the dead end of Cornwall.

Although police can't determine exactly where Clark entered the water, the beach and its surrounding areas remain the most likely locations.

"Both are very strong possibilities," Young said. "But it's impossible to say."

Bellingham Police Chief Todd Ramsay said the autopsy closes the investigation into Clark's death.

"The tragic accidental death of a bright and vibrant young man has had a tremendous impact on our community, but it is with Dwight's family and close friends that we send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers," Ramsay said in a statement

WWU officials joined the police department in offering condolences to Clark's family. Clark's death occurred at the beginning of the university's fall quarter, and President Bruce Shepard, members of the university administration and hundreds of students gathered on campus for memorials and vigils to mourn his death.

In a statement, the university said it continues to educate students on the safety of consuming alcohol and drugs.

Clark was an avid skateboarder. Gavin Aubert, a childhood friend of Clark's, said events continue to be organized to raise money to build a skate park in Clark's memory.

Aubert said a silent auction and spaghetti feed were held in November, and he hopes to organize a skate competition in January to raise more.

The skate park likely would be built in the Auburn or Federal Way area, Aubert said. About $10,000 has been contributed to the cause. Aubert said he and Clark dreamed of one day building a skate park.

Aubert and Clark started a clothing company, 4evergreen Apparel, while they were classmates at Auburn High School. Clothing bearing their designs can be purchased at 4evergreenapparel.com. All profits go for the skate park.

"This was what Dwight wanted to do for the community," Aubert said. "We're still going to do it for him. When people come to the park and skate, they'll see Dwight's face and remember."

Aubert said what Clark's friends want most is to know the circumstances of his death. For now, their questions may never have answers.

"As a close net of friends, we all support each other," Aubert said. "I feel like the thing that comes up the most is wanting to know exactly what happened to our friend. That's what's eating us up inside."

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